Reuters International

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier attends a cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

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BERLIN (Reuters) - The European Union would not simply carry on as before should Britain vote to leave the bloc, Germany's foreign minister said on Thursday, pointing to Northern Ireland as one potential trouble spot.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he hoped Britain would vote to stay in the 28-member bloc in a referendum on June 23.

"Should the British decide otherwise, then the European Union won't just carry on as 28 minus one," Steinmeier told a conference on Europe in his ministry.

As an example of one area where old troubles could flare up, he pointed to Northern Ireland and its border with EU member Ireland, which is open and where the situation is largely calm.

"At the moment that the United Kingdom leaves (the EU), we have a border again between Ireland and Northern Ireland. That has at least the potential to allow completely calmed conflicts to flare up again," Steinmeier said.

A 1998 peace deal, brokered after more than 3,600 had died, has largely ended the conflict that pitted mostly Catholics, who wanted a united Ireland, against Unionists, mostly Protestants, who wanted it to remain part of the United Kingdom.

(Reporting by Paul Carrel)

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